A correlation between adiposity and post-exercise autonomic regulation has been established in overweight and obese children. However, little information exists about this link in non-obese youth. The main purpose of this cross-sectional study was to describe the relationship between body fat percentage (BFP) and heart rate recovery after exercise [post-exercise heart rate (PEHR)], a marker of autonomic regulation, in normal-weight children and adolescents.
We evaluated the body composition of 183 children and adolescents (age 15.0±2.3 years; 132 boys and 51 girls) who performed a maximal graded exercise test on a treadmill, with the heart rate monitored during and immediately after exercise.
A strong positive trend was observed in the association between BFP and PEHR (r=0.14; p=0.06). Hierarchical multiple regression revealed that our model explained 18.3% of the variance in PEHR (p=0.00), yet BFP accounted for only 0.9% of the variability in PEHR (p=0.16). The evaluation of the contribution of each independent variable revealed that only two variables made a unique statistically significant contribution to our model (p<0.01), with age contributing 38.7% to our model (p=0.00) while gender accounted for an additional 25.5% (p=0.01). Neither BFP (14.4%; p=0.16) nor cardiorespiratory endurance (5.0%, p=0.60) made a significant unique contribution to the model.
Body fatness seems to poorly predict PEHR in our sample of non-obese children and adolescents, while non-modifiable variables (age and gender) were demonstrated as strong predictors of heart rate recovery. The low amount of body fat reported in non-obese young participants was perhaps too small to cause disturbances in autonomic nervous system regulation.
Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.
Research funding: This study was supported by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development (Grant 175037), the Provincial Secretariat for Science and Technological Development (Grant 114-451-710) and the Faculty of Sport and Physical Education (2016 Annual Award).
Employment or leadership: None declared.
Honorarium: None declared.
Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.
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